Taylor Kitsch on Paul's Idea of a 'Good Man'
What initially drew you to the part of this character Paul Woodrugh?
What didn't, really? I was drawn to being able to play someone that intense and withdrawn, especially at the beginning. I think what [writer and series creator] Nic [Pizzolatto] did so brilliantly was to have the case expose so much of Paul, the duality of the lives that Paul leads -- who he wants to be and who he can't be within himself. The work takes him through the club and makes him deal with escorts. He's been fighting his whole life with being a gay man, and reacting to that.
Of course, I was drawn to Paul's family stuff. As an actor, that's probably the first place you go: What is his upbringing? Where did he come from and why? Paul's relationship with his mom explains a lot about why he is the way he is.
How much did you and Nic discuss Paul's backstory?
Nic is incredibly thorough, which is what I think differentiates him from a lot of writers and even showrunners. I'll ask a simple question and within that same day, I'll get a two-page email explaining every beat. That's incredible to have as an actor -- he's doing half my work for me.
Did any piece of Paul's backstory resonate with you?
The scars were a big thing for me. We talked about the scars on his shoulder and said they were caused by a chemical or boiling water that his mom had spilled on him ? and never took him to get help. It was like a daily physical reminder for him. It was something I held onto.
Paul really is the one who cracks the case.
I kept telling Rachel [McAdams] and Colin [Farrell] that, but they wouldn't listen.
What about Paul's personality made him uniquely equipped to connect the dots?
I think you see these characters' true colors in the shootout [in "Down Will Come," Episode 4]. Ray and Ani are bleeding hearts; Paul is confident. He's so comfortable in that zone where he doesn't have to think about anything but being in that moment. He's so good in that element where he doesn't have to face himself.
Paul tells Emily, "I'm just trying to be a good man." What does that mean to him?
There's a similar line that Paul says to Ray in the car [in Episode 4] that's incredibly on the nose: "I just don't know how to be out in this world." Paul went into the army, did what they said and forgot his own identity. He's only focused on what a man is "supposed" to do. He visits his mom, even when it's such an abusive relationship. With his girlfriend being pregnant, it's on a deeper level. He's covering up being a gay man, but he also didn't have a father. He's trying to break that cycle by deciding to be the best possible father he can be. For him, that means getting married. What's so tragic is that he's always doing the right thing, except for facing himself.
How would you describe Paul's relationship with Ray?
Paul doesn't have one honest relationship in his life. I would say that Velcoro's the closest thing to it. Obviously, they're both two tragic guys. Over Caspere's body, they measured each other up -- there's a vibe or tone there and an understanding between the two.
Colin and I were saying in rehearsal what a big moment it was for Paul to even reach out -- and I think it's as much as Paul could have at that time. There was so much that he wanted to say that was right on the tip of his tongue.
What is running through Paul's mind when he sees Miquel at the Hall of Justice?
I was always trying to balance how vulnerable Paul was going to be. When Paul sees Miquel, he's wondering -- and there's a line to this effect -- was it always about this, or was there ever an actual human need there? Then it goes right into self-protection mode the moment he's in the tunnel.
Did you receive specific direction for the shootout in the tunnels?
Once Paul was down in the tunnels, the goal was quite literally: Get out of there alive. The case would have been wide open if Paul had gotten out of there alive.
What was it like filming Paul's death?
I went over it a million times in my head. That was one of the only instances in the whole series where I would do the scene and then watch playback. It was just imperative that we got a few beats that I wanted in there. His death hits you so much harder -- it comes out of nowhere. I kind of love that.
How would you characterize Paul's evolution over the season?
I feel so fortunate to have been able to play such high stakes. Emotionally, it's so fulfilling as an actor to be able to take our time building this arc. I could go through the whole spectrum of emotion, and it always felt grounded. Sometimes when you have 90 minutes or two hours in a film, you find yourself trying to force certain beats that might not be there organically.
If Paul had emerged from the tunnels, what would have been next for him?
I think he would go on a good little vengeance trip and really take care of it. He'd go full solider mode.
Personally, I will say that Paul would have been a good father. Maybe that's some silver lining I cling to. But he always did try to do the right thing.